It’s been a while since I’ve talked about traveling with a dog.
This is mostly because 2014 was a year of staying put. I got my visa for Switzerland and I settled in to close out my 20s and ease into my 30s in the Alps. I hiked trails I’d never before seen. I discovered a secret Swiss foodie underground (think: cheese made with pine needles and a new, unnamed wine). And I only left Switzerland a few times–once to hike in the Italian Dolomites with a good friend. Once to stuff my face in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. And once to add a few new French cities to my repertoire.
And so I didn’t talk much about what it was like to travel with a dog, because I simply wasn’t “traveling” that much.
Still, survey responses and emailed questions come in all the time asking about Luna’s adventures around the world. And so I thought I’d remedy my silence with a look back at Luna’s 2014.
A Dog’s Life in Switzerland
As you know, Luna and I live in central Switzerland, in a little town hidden away in the Alps. For Luna, this has mostly been a dream place. She loves our hiking trips up into the high altitudes, overnights in a tent, explorations along the valley floor. She’s also never been a fan of car noises, so living in a small town suits her.
The one downside has been discovering, through trial and error, the Swiss rules as they apply to dogs. Mostly, they’re self-explanatory. People let their dogs off-leash except when there are leash signs on the trails or they’re passing through a herd of cows, who can get skittish and scary. Poop bags are provided along the trails. And, like the rest of Europe, dogs are generally welcome in cafes, restaurants, and the pub.
The one rule we didn’t know, though, was that in Switzerland you have to register your dog not once, but twice. Once with a service called ANIS through your vet and once with the local government. If you don’t register twice, the Swiss will charge you triple. And they don’t care at all if you didn’t know the rule in the first place.
(So, in summary: make sure to register your dog. Twice.)
Fancy Italian restaurants are the best places to nap.
Travels to Italy
In the first half of the year, Luna and I made it across the border to Italy twice. We explored the quaint, charming center of Modena, spent a couple nights in Parma, and hiked in the Dolomites with our BASE jumper friends (they jumped off the cliff; we hiked back down through the snow).
Northern Italy, much like our experiences in the south, was very dog-friendly and easy to get around. As usual, we rented Airbnb apartments for each stay.
Travels in France
In the late part of the year, Luna and I headed to France. First, we landed in the glamorous beach town of Biarritz and explored the neighboring Bayonne, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Hendaye, and Anglet. This was, by far, Luna’s favorite of our trips this year. While I’m a mountain girl through and through, Luna passionately loves the beach. Whenever she can smell the ocean, her excitement flares. She pulls at the leash (unusual for her) and throws herself headlong down the sand, zooming along the surf with her tongue lolling out. In photos, it always seems like she’s smiling.
Like Switzerland and Italy, France was welcoming to her. It was easy to find a place to stay and even easier to take her into cafes and shops.
After our beach time, Luna and I eased back into winter with a trip to Chamonix, where I’m writing to you today. Here’s it’s been chillier and Luna has been struggling a bit with her allergies, so we didn’t do as much exploring. But as far as I can tell, it’s just as pet-friendly as the rest of France.
Yet again, we rented Airbnb apartments for each stay.
Sand is her drug of choice.
Puppy Travel Gear
It’s now been about 3.5 years with Luna’s Sleepypod Air carrier and the thing is still going strong. It fits on every airplane, train, and bus. Luna still loves it and frequently sneaks inside when she is feeling insecure or needs a break (it’s always open to her on the floor no matter where we are in the world). I’ll be replacing the interior padding again soon (Luna likes to dig through it about once a year), but other than that (an easy fix) the thing is still in perfect condition.
If the carrier ever gives up on us, I’ll be buying another of the same brand and style. The thing is basically magic.
This year, since we were staying put, I also tried out the Sleepypod Atom carrier, which is a little smaller and lighter. I thought it would be good for day trips on the train (in Switzerland, small dogs in a carrier travel free on the train, but I didn’t want to carry Luna’s regular Air carrier around all day, as it’s not really made for walking around with). Unfortunately, the Atom is just a hair too small for Luna. She fits into it just fine, but if she wants to lay down and rest, her body is just a little too long for her to really do so comfortably. This is totally my fault, as Luna was just over the suggested weight for the carrier, but I wanted to try the thing anyway and figured Luna would squeeze in nicely (she only takes up about half her Sleepypod Air, since she likes to sleep all curled up). That said, the carrier itself is sturdy and nice and felt very similar to the Air carrier that we love.
She fits, but can’t really lay her head down comfortably.
Luna’s other gear is all pretty much the same. We travel with one to two toys at all times (a ball, since fetch is her favorite game) and usually a tug toy made out of my old socks (as my socks wear out, I make new toys). I also carry a comb, some poop bags, and a couple dog sweaters, as well as a few medicines (heartworm pills, flea treatments, etc.).
The other big difference in Luna’s travel style came at the very end of this year: because of her difficult and constant allergies, we decided (me and the vet) to take her off dog food and do homemade food instead. This way, I will know exactly what is in her food and we can make small shifts over time to combat her allergies.
If you want to do a home-made diet for your own dog, you should check with your vet. But in case you’re wondering what Luna’s diet looks like, here’s the skinny: I feed her three equal (in size, not calories) portions of protein (tuna or salmon), carbohydrates (rice), and veggies (carrots, broccoli, and/or green beans). And I’ve started sprinkling it all with parsley, which is supposed to be good for her breath.
She is, understandably, thrilled with the new arrangement. Warm, fresh meals two to three times daily? Yes, please, says Luna.
(And I must say I’m pretty thrilled about it, too. Not only do I feel more comfortable knowing exactly what’s going into her meals, but it’s also a lot easier to carry a can of tuna and a carrot than to lug bags of dog food from country to country.)
A thank you to Sleepypod, who sent me the new smaller carrier to test out for free. All opinions, as always, are my own.
Going to Europe yourself? I wrote some guidebooks for you.